Paying a debt after someone dies; who is responsible for the debt?

Worrying about debts is bad enough but worrying about debts in conjunction with the death of someone close to you is even worse. Dealing with the emotional issues in the event of a death is difficult but then, in addition, practical issues also have to be dealt with. So, what happens in the case there are debts to be cleared when a person is deceased? Who is responsible for the debt?

If your wife, husband or civil partner dies, you will not be automatically responsible for paying back any money they may have borrowed. You will only be responsible in case you have both signed a credit agreement or if you acted as their guarantor.

Lenders are able to try to recover any money owed from the estate of the person who has died. The estate constitutes anything of value that the person owned at time of death. Examples of what makes up an estate are savings, investments and property. If there is insufficient money in the estate to pay off the debts, lenders cannot recover any money from you.

What happens if you have already paid back the debt thinking you were responsible?

If you have repaid money borrowed under a credit agreement because you thought you were responsible for it, you can write to the lender requesting that they give the money back. If they don’t agree to refund the money, you can make complain.

It is also a good idea to check whether the debt is covered by an insurance policy which will pay it off if the person who has taken out the credit dies.

For you would like more information about making a complaint to a lender, see What can you do if you don’t think you should pay back a debt.

You may need help to complain to a lender who is chasing you for money you believe you don’t owe. You can get help to do this from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of the nearest CAB.